For me, the opening of the stone crab season is reason enough to visit Florida in October. They’re simply wonderful — a cross between lobster and shrimp. h2 data-curated-ids="628702,617902" data-relation-type="curated"">
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After my arrival on Oct. 16, I got stone crab for lunch on Cabbage Key, a 100-acre island off Sanibel and Captiva. They were caught maybe a mile away.
The deliciously sweet stone crabs can be harvested and sold only between Oct. 15 and May 1, serendipity for snowbirds who come during that same time. The labor-intensive harvest requires the crab to be netted and brought to the surface, where one of the claws is quickly trimmed off before the creature is returned to the sea. The missing claw will regrow in about a year while the remaining claw allows the crab to defend itself and find its own food. Stone crab claws cost $50 per pound and up when ordered online.
Although Cabbage Key is best known for its cheeseburgers, I loved my stone crab claws. Served with melted butter for dipping and a yummy mustard sauce, they came to our table already cracked, accompanied by a nutcracker and pick for prying free delectable morsels left behind. .
The island and its food are reputed to be the inspiration for Jimmy Buffett’s “Cheeseburger in Paradise.” The singer, known for his themes of island escapism, is one of the many celebrities who come to Cabbage Key — accessible only by boat.
It took us about 40 minutes to reach Cabbage Key from Captiva Island. We were there just for lunch, and I now want to go back to spend a few days.
No roads or cars are on the island, and the main house, built in the 1930s atop an ancient Calusa Indian shell mound, is home to the restaurant and a couple of guest rooms. Lodging also may be booked in one of the island’s pretty tin-roof cottages.
Thousands of dollar bills, taped to every surface in the bar room, flutter in the afternoon breezes passing through the screened porches. Servers provide tape and a pen to inscribe them.
“We’ve donated more than $70,000 to children’s charities,” our server told us.
As four of us disembarked from our boat at the dock on Pine Island Sound, we were greeted by a small land tortoise, lumbering slowly down the hill. It’s one of a pair of gopher tortoises, who live as pets on the island. They are a protected species in Florida and live up to 70 years. Their burrows provide homes for dozens of other wild creatures.
Cabbage Key can be reached only by boat, but many choices are available. Manatees, sea otters, sea turtles and dolphins are frequently spotted en route. Cabbage Key reservations: 239-283-2278; cabbagekey.com.
Captain Trevor Sushil brought four of us there on his fishing boat. Call 239-896-7808.
Captiva Cruices offers a replica steamboat that takes passengers from South Seas Plantation on Captiva Island with $45 cruises from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., allowing time for lunch and other islands. Call 239-323-6878.
Source : https://www.news-herald.com/2021/10/26/floridas-remote-cabbage-key-escape-rewards-with-stone-crab-and-tranquility-janet-podolak1039